Above: Jono Jackson on his way to the 2016 Auckland Cross Country title. Photo by Scott Wilson.
Jono Jackson, one of the most consistent cross country runners this season could well be rewarded for his dedication with the New Zealand senior cross country title to be raced on the Auckland Domain on Sunday.
The New Zealand Cross Country Championships, also doubling as the Oceania championships for 2016, will see over 500 athletes contesting the various titles up for grabs from under 13's to masters. The championships have attracted the largest fields for seven years.
Apart from not racing the first Auckland event this winter programme at Pukekohe, Jackson has made it a clean sweep of all the five races he has competed in including the North Island title at Taupo.
The 25 year old’s only national title is the 2014 mountain running championship. At the cross country championships he has always been in the mix, third in 2013, second in 2014 and fourth last year.
The Domain course is expected to be heavy and Jackson has directed his training towards dealing with this type of condition over the 10km distance.
Jackson should face strong competition from the Canterbury pair of Daniel Balchin, third in 2014 and Oska Inkster-Baynes third last year. Also expected to be up with the early pace are 2010 champion Alex Parlane, Michael Banks, Nathan Tse, Peter Wheeler and Ben Musson.
Australian entry Nicholas Wightman will be certain to challenge the New Zealanders for the Oceania title, while a number of Pacific nations have also entered athletes.
The senior women’s race over 10km is shaping up into being a close affair between national under 20 champion for the last two years Rosa Flanagan and the recent North Island champion Laura Nagel. The strong women’s field includes Olivia Burne, Sarah Drought, Gabrielle Gray, Esther Keown, Jean Kozyniak, Nicole Mitchell third last year, Ashleigh Williams and Katie Wright.
Karinna Fyfe will be trying to take the Oceania title back to Australia in the women's race.
Harry Ewing and secondary schools champion Dan Hoy should provide a close finish to the under 20 men's 8km. Ewing has performed well this season moving up to the senior races for stronger competition. The extremely competitive field also includes Cameron Avery, Oliver Chignell, Sean Eustace, Canterbury champion Matt Prest, Jared Lautenslager, Tom Moulai, Wellington champion Stefan Przychodzko, Auckland champion Andrew Catley and Angus White.
Kelsey Forman will be all out to add the women’s under 20 title to the under 18 won last year. Also after a podium placing will be Emerson Deverell, Hanna English, Samantha Jordan, Sophie Smith, Katherine Badham and Grace Wood.
Hannah O’Connor should make it a win three years in a row, and take out the under 18 women’s 4km. O’Connor has won the under 15 for the past two years and was a convincing winner of the NZ Secondary schools junior girls title and the North Island 18 race. O’Connor finished sixth in the girls 3km race at the world secondary schools cross country championships in Budapest in April. Also chasing a medal will be NZ Schools senior winner Tessa Webb, Liliana Braun, Georgia Clode and Bridie Edwards.
Isaiah Priddey will be seeking the firmer footing around the course, not wanting risk slipping over in the mud as he did at the Auckland championships, as he sets out to win the under 18 men 6km. The strong field includes James Uhlenberg, Logan Slee, George Cory-Wright, Jacob Holmes and Max Karamanolis.
Stephen Day, as he did at the North Island championships should win the master men 35-49 8km from Greg Darbyshire and Chris Mardon. Richard Bennett a four time winner of the 35-49 grade since 2008 should win the 50-64 8km with John Crane, Dallas McCallum, Peter Stevens and Alastair Prangnell not too far behind. Tony McManus, Michael
Bond and Ron Robertson should feature in the 65 plus 6km.
Sally Gibbs will be hard to beat in the master women’s 6km. At the North Island championship Gibbs led in Bridget Deverell by over a minute. Mel Aitken is expected to throw out a challenge as is Deverell, Paula Canning, Anna McRae, Carly Graham, Maggie Chorley, Bridget Ray and Johanna Buick.
Finlay Seeds in the boys and Charli Miller in the girls should feature in the placings in the under 15 3km.
The Auckland Domain course has been chosen as the venue for the World Masters Games cross country races next April and these championships will be a test run for the layout and officials.
The championship programme starts at 10am with the under 11 mixed race. The senior women start at 2.10pm and the senior men 3.00pm.
Athletics New Zealand Correspondent